Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), a key enzyme of tryptophan (TRP) metabolism, is induced in various tissues of patients with bacterial and viral infection or with neoplastic diseases. This induction is considered the main cause of the decreased serum TRP levels, the reduced brain serotonin synthesis and the occurrence of psychopathological disorders often detected in patients with chronic infections or different forms of cancer. We studied 89 subjects including: (a) 39 patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and mild liver damage (b) 40 healthy controls, and (c) 10 patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. We measured serum TRP and kynurenine levels and IDO activity in macrophages. Furthermore, each patient had an accurate psychopathological evaluation. HCV-infected patients had lower (-28%) serum TRP concentrations than healthy volunteers or HBV-infected patients with comparable liver damage. Depression and anxiety symptoms were particularly common in HCV patients. Unexpectedly, serum kynurenine levels and IDO activity in cultured macrophages (under both basal or stimulated conditions) were lower in HCV patients than in controls. Our study shows that HCV patients have reduced serum TRP levels and confirms that they frequently suffer from anxiety and depression-related symptoms. The reduced IDO activity found in the macrophages of these patients suggest that HCV infection may hamper macrophage functions.